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August 23, 1995: Jay Leno Helps Launch Windows 95

During a rehearsal for the Windows 95 launch, Jay Leno quips ‘I came illiterate, now I’m leaving virtually retarded…’

August 1995 was a momentous occasion for the computer industry as Microsoft introduced Windows 95 at a gala launch event.

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The Windows 95 launch took place on a 12-acre sports field at Microsoft’s Redmond campus. It took 20 days and over 200 people to prepare for the festivities. Bill Gates was beamed simultaneously to 43 other events in cities around the world – not an easy feat in 1995.

Over 70,000 people tuned in to watch the launch event live via satellite. The Empire State Building in New York City was even lit up with the Windows 95 logo. Fields in England were also painted with the logo so it could be seen from the air. In Poland, journalists were taken in a submarine to experience “a world without Windows.”

The launch was a hit. 20 national magazine cover stories, 13,000 newspaper stories, 800 radio news spots and 2,000 television news segments all covered the arrival of Windows 95, which would usher in a new era in computing.

Windows 95 Screen Shot

Windows 95 Screen Shot

Microsoft wooed businesses to Windows 95 with features like easier networking, more productivity and (gasp) long file names! Microsoft PRs disclosed that the development team consumed an estimated 2,283,600 cups of coffee and 4,850 lbs of popcorn while toiling over the new product.

Gates enlisted late night chat show host, Jay Leno, who cracked that Windows 95 was ‘so powerful that it can keep track of all of OJ’s alibis at once’.”

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What better way to show how fun, and easy Windows 95 was than to have Bill Gates demonstrate to irreverent computer novice and late night talk show host Jay Leno how cool Windows 95 really is. A TV star who knew almost nothing about computing, sharing the stage with a computing great who knew almost nothing about television. It was a match made in heaven.

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Bill Gates and Microsoft, meanwhile, were pretty confident that their $300 million in hype would pay off and that the company would recoup its marketing and promotional outlays – and then some. They knew at the time there were roughly 100 million computer users who had earlier versions of Windows who would sooner or later upgrade to Windows 95.

windows-95-upgrade

Then there was at least another $250 million of expected sales from add-on software that could be used with Windows 95.  And within days of the launch, millions of copies of Windows 95 were sold; more than 40 million in the first year.  Windows 95, in its day, soon became the most successful operating system ever produced.  And within three years of its introduction Windows 95 would be followed by new Microsoft software, Windows 98, and subsequent versions, continuing to present times.

Jay Leno and Bill Gates Launch Windows 95

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